It's been proven that optimists live longer and enjoy that longer life to its fullest. And the good news is that we all start out life as optimists.
So why do so many of us see that glass as half-empty or maybe focus on the bad in good things rather than seeing the good in bad things?
Psychologists have proven that we often learn pessimism from our primary caregiver, most usually our mother. And if kids lose their natural optimism, they will then be at a much higher risk of developing depression in the future because of it.
I've always thought of myself as a realist, but the truth is my parents were not great optimists and then a career in science and project management taught me to always look for problems and to plan for failure.
Before my NLP training, I always used to struggle being optimistic about "bad" things (and even many of the "good" things) life threw my way.
So how can we help ourselves (and our kids) hold onto the optimism we're born with?
The book "Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman tells us to always explain "bad" events with an upbeat, optimistic tone.
- As if the cause was temporary, one-off.
"Never mind, it was really hard to do and next time you'll do better."
- As if it's specific to just one small part of our world.
"I burned the toast, but there's enough bread to make some more."
- As if it's not someone's fault, but external factors caused it.
"I didn't get the promotion, because the boss was in a bad mood that day."
- And we don't use words like "Always" and "Never" or make it personal - we criticize the behaviour, not the person/ourself.
"It's so unlike me, I must've been really tired that day" rather than "I always screw up, I'm such a loser."
Or "It was just a simple mistake" rather than "You never get it right, do you?"
And then to give optimism a boost, we do the opposite to explain the reasons why "good" things happen. We say they are permanent, all encompassing and about the person/ourself.
"Of course you passed. you're were always so clever at biology" instead of, "You were lucky the questions were on the things you studied."
Or "The day was a great success. We organise these things so well, don't we?" rather than, "These things never usually go so well, we were so lucky with the weather."
I know it's not always a good thing to be blindly optimistic, like taking crazy risks with money or our health.
And some people seem to be just plain happy with being grumpy or harshly realistic about life.
But, if the world has bashed us around a bit and we wish we could be more optimistic, the good news is optimism can be re-learned.
I always use Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) for changing negative beliefs and thinking habits.
There's also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - for a great self-help book on how to use it, I recommend this one by Stephen Briers.
For a lighter read, here's an article on being more optimistic.
And finally, for some great, powerful things to say to our kids, check out this wonderful post by Dr Kim.
Because If Eeyore can do it, anyone can!
“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
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